Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
Shh…I have a secret. I hadn’t read Amie Knight prior to reading an early copy of The First Score. You might be asking, “well, Professor A, if you haven’t read Amie Knight, why did you want to read The First Score?” Two words: sports romance. Yep. I’m a sucker for sports romance. Add to that the idea of friends-to-lovers with a little age gap (older woman-younger man), and I raised my hand high for that assignment. Then, Knight decides to make her hero, Oliver “Winnie” Knox, a twenty-three-year-old college football player virgin, and I went from interested to intrigued. So I dived right into The First Score and didn’t look back.
First things first, though. To be fair, Amie Knight, this isn’t really a sports romance. Yes, your hero is a college football player, but there is very very little football in this book. I want to be fair to the readers so that they know that football doesn’t run this book. Nope. This book is really about two life-long friends and their journey towards love.
Now, what did I adore about this book? Ollie Knox. Yep. He is THE best reason to read this book. Warning, readers, you need to know something. If you like the kind of hero who treats the heroine poorly, then you will NOT like Ollie because Oliver Knox has been in love with the heroine of this story, Hazel, for most of his life. The tension in this story is created by Hazel. If you love a hero who is protective, compassionate, thoughtful, handsome, and insightful, then The First Score is ABSOLUTELY a must-read. Hands down, I love “Winnie” Knox.
So what beyond Knight’s hero should lead you to read The First Score? Well, beyond the kind of funny catfishing story and Hazel’s love for gaming, the essence of Hazel’s story is an important one. You should know that Hazel’s life has been difficult, and it has set up a dangerous psychology. It is this psychology that creates the challenges for Oliver and Hazel to be together. It’s also Hazel’s choices that create much of the frustration/tension of this book. Knight deftly creates a tension between Hazel and Ollie that oftentimes feels uncomfortable and beyond the necessary means for a story. There were times when I was nervous for Knight because she took much of the story to get Ollie and Hazel to the right place. But, in hindsight, that was intentional because the last third of The First Score is a treasure. I was crying and laughing in the middle night as I was finishing this story because Knight had carefully laid out the chronology of the story until you feel relieved when Hazel and Ollie move towards their happy ending. There were times in the first part when, honestly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep reading because Hazel’s indecision was frustrating. Yet, the pay-off in the last third of the book is absolutely worth every frustration.
Beyond Oliver and Hazel’s journey AND Ollie himself, why else should you read this story? One word: Pops. After Ollie, Pops is my favorite character (sorry, Hazel!). He’s funny, irreverent, and an adoring grandfather. When I was ready to give Hazel the middle-finger in her indecision over Ollie, Pops would show up and make it all better. He is the cherry on top of this story.
In the end, there is so much goodness in The First Score. There isn’t really any sports in this romance, but there is a heroine whose journey is an important one. Once you move beyond the walls she’s erected to protect her heart, you move to the essence of this story: that, even though we believe we are unloveable due to other’s actions, there is someone out there who wants to love us hard. They will love us through our pain and ugly parts. And in doing so, they will help us move past the pain to the place of bliss. That’s at the heart of Oliver and Hazel. Don’t miss out on that important message. Read Amie Knight’s The First Score.
In love and romance,